Getting started with at-home gel manicures

I haven't been in the mood for content creation lately - one of our cats has been missing for two weeks now and it's really weighing on us. But I've found that distracting myself is a necessity right now, as a form of self-care, so here I am writing a blog post about a skill I've picked up during lockdown that gives me joy: a DIY gel manicure.

I've always liked getting creative with my nails, but I also go through long periods of time where I really can't be bothered because I'm annoyed by the process of carefully doing them only to have them chip/wear down too quickly - sometimes even the same day. I never seriously considered getting a professional gel or acrylic manicure because it's another thing on your to do list, it's another recurring cost, and I feel like I already invest enough effort and money into soothing my internalized male gaze.

However, I was recently contacted my Mistero Milano who asked me whether I was interested in trying one of their gel polish sets. I did a bit of research and found out that doing a gel mani at home actually isn't that difficult, expensive or cumbersome, so I was happy to agree to a review.

Mistero Milano sent over three gel nail polish colours of my choosing, a nail prep product, a primer, a base coat, a no-wipe top coat (easiest top coat to use) and this UV/LED curing apparatus. You can get a similar package here. I picked Lady Saffron, Flowers in your Hair and Cloud Romance as my colors because I love bright pastels and muted sage greens.

I was surprised at how small and light the UV/LED lamp was, definitely something you could even take along in your handbag (or on holiday) if you'd want to. Not something I'd do probably, but just as an FYI. I had no clue what all the different products meant or how I should ideally apply them, so off I went to Youtube. There's also tips and tricks on the Mistero Milano website, but visual learning is simply more fun so I watched some tutorials. Main takeaways:

  • work in multiple thin layers, curing each layer before adding the next
  • more layers = more even color and a stronger mani
  • leave some space between your product and your cuticles/skin because this will make your mani last longer
  • as long as you haven't cured your mani you can easily go back and clean up any mess you make, unlike normal nail polish which sets on its own
  • different colors/brands need different curing times, anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes generally
  • from start to finish it takes me about 30-45 minutes depending on how elaborate my design is
  • and something I've noticed but didn't see in the tutorials: my color can still feel a little tacky sometimes before adding my top coat, but the final layer finishes everything off and gets everything cured in
  • your mani can last anywhere from one to two weeks (or longer depending on the design and your nail growth)
  • you remove the mani by buffing off the top coat and soaking off the rest with acetone. But honestly I also enjoy just picking off the gel even if it's something people tell you not to do. It's my nails, I'll do what I want with them thank you very much

Apart from some messing about with the curing time, everything was pretty easy and self explanatory if you're used to doing your nails!

So how do I like at home gel manicures? I kinda love it, more than I had expected. Why?

  1. your manicure looks super clean, glossy and even, and will continue to look flawless until you take it off unlike a normal nail polish manicure
  2. your nails are stronger because of the layers of product, allowing you to grow your nails out longer. You also don't have to be careful not to damage them by opening stuff/scratching things/doing dishes or yard work because they are fortified by the gel
  3. doing intricate designs is SO much more rewarding (and easy) because you know it'll look great for a longer period of time, making it worth the time you'll put into it
  4. makes you feel expensive because it just looks so NICE

Here's another few looks I've done recently. I find loads of inspiration in Pinterest, you can check out my nail art board here. I obviously already ordered some more colors to play around with, there's great deals to be had online.
So there's that! Let me know if you have any tips or questions!

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